Looking to a fruitful future for Apple

Apple's 30. Isn't it time it grew up and got itself a proper job?

On Apple's birthday it is tempting to cast a retrospective eye over the company's successful and not so successful products and strategies of the past 30 years. But as the company approaches middle age and the inevitable launch of the iHarley, perhaps it would be more fruitful to look to the future and start taking the workplace more seriously.

Apple's greatest strength has always been the desktop — this is the metaphor it has lived by for most of the past 30 years, and it is the place that the company understands better than any other. Steve Jobs knows, perhaps better than any other tech chief executive, what people want. For the most part that is a seamless, easy experience, and it applies to music players as much as to computers, which is why the iPod has been such a success.

So why are Macs still such a rare site in the enterprise? The reasons may seem obvious — cost, relatively low availability of applications, Apple not caring to compete with the cut-price merchants — but they are increasingly bogus.

Macs are generally more expensive to buy than PCs, but when it comes to TCO, Apple has one great advantage that no other major desktop PC vendor has: total control of the interface between operating system and hardware. One company building the hardware and the (OS) software should thereby be able to increase reliability and reduce support costs. If that also makes work a little bit nicer for your users at their desks, isn't that a good thing?

Some will argue that Apple's lock-in is greater by virtue of its refusal to sell copies of the OS for just any hardware: at least by buying Windows-based PCs you have a choice of hardware vendor. Perhaps, but the flip side is zero ambiguity when things go wrong.

And the days of worrying about application availability for Macs will shortly be, if it is not already, a thing of the past. Apple users have always enjoyed a slick range of content-creation software, but the increasing library of open source software means that there is a correspondingly large pile of cross-platform applications that gives Apple owners a taste of the wider world.

So come on Steve, Apple's 30 and the time is now ripe to take the enterprise seriously. If you do, you might just find yourself pushing at an open door.

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